From New Zealand – Pukekohe 25/27 January & Taupo
1/3 Febuary 2010
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FJ – Pukekohe F2

FJ – Taupo

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by Neil McCrudden

During 2006 I became aware
that the various international Formula Junior associations were developing a
world series which would be held in Britain , Europe, North America, Australia
, New Zealand as well as Africa . We had two Formula Juniors namely the McEntee
and a partly restored Lotus 20/22, both needed substantial work to be eligible
to run in the Australian leg of the series. We set about sourcing the parts and
building the cars so that they would be ready by the end of 2007. Then about 6
months ago we thought it might also be possible to compete in the New Zealand
leg as well. This called for an entirely different strategy to get them there.
The Bus would not make it across the ditch and a container was required. I
designed a 40′ high cube container to carry 9 cars and asked a number of locals
if they would like to participate. We had a full load and I quickly purchased a
40′ high cube container. One by one they pulled the pin and it was only our two
formula Juniors which were left. As I promised to participate it meant that the
40′ container would be too expensive and that a 20′ should be used. We believed
that we could build a 20′ container which would carry 2 formula juniors as well
as 2 Formula 2 Cars. Lance Carwardine and myself had been running the Jane
Brabham and the Macon in the State series and both cars were well sorted and
needed little work to get them up to standard. There were no other drivers on
the scene so Lance and myself decided to drive two cars each ?a FJ and a F2 and
we would share the cost of the freight.

To make things more
complicated, we needed a place to store the 40′ container and work on the 20′
container. I was in the process of buying a house on 6 acres in Banjup, 10
minutes down the road. We could not get access to the property until the
previous owners vacated it on the 8 th December 2007 and needed to have
everything finished for shipping on the 2 nd of January 2008. This meant that
we would be working long hours for the few weeks before Christmas to build the
container and finish off the two Formula Juniors. I thought that I would
concentrate of the two FJs and when I found out that Glen Caple would be in New
Zealand on business at the same time as the Tasman events I offered the Macon
to him to drive. Glen is a very capable driver and has helped us for many years
and would not put the car at risk. This was a chance for Glen to be part of the
Tasman experience.

Meanwhile there were other
problems which were beyond my skills. As we were the only ones from West
Australia , the whole process of shipping the container and transport at the
other end needed to be resolved. This all came to a head at the beginning of
December when we were organizing the carnet and realized we did not know how to
clear the container at the other end and how could we get it to the circuits. I
was ready to give up and settle for the Australian leg only ? we still had the
bus and we knew what to do to get to Calder and Phillip Island . I then
contacted Nigel Russell the co-ordinator of the New Zealand Formula Junior
Association and asked for help with the logistical problems. Within a few
minutes I had received an email from David Reid, the Australian President of
the Formula Junior association and Stewart Garmey from Tradelanes in Victoria
with offers of help. ?We can take this load off your hands? and they did.

At this stage I really
appreciated being part of the formula Junior family.

In late December I was
notified by the shipping company that the deadline for the container had been
moved forward to the 28 th December; bugger, so it was long hours by anyone
that had the time.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was also a sponsor of
the event and the staff at the North Fremantle office were fantastic in helping
me through the process in getting the container shipped from Fremantle.

Bob Betts, Sonny Rajah, Lance Carwardine and myself worked full time on the
project and Terry Smith came in for the last few days when the temperature was
in the high 40′s. Terry worked like a trooper to
finish it off. In addition, Ken Reed, Ray Robertson and John Illig helped when
they had any spare time. So one team was working on the container whilst others
were working on each car.

The final preparation of
the McEntee illustrates how frenetic the process had become. I drove the car at
the Collie Crown weekend in August 2007 and noticed that we could not engage 1
st gear. The motor was removed shortly after and the gearbox sent for
modification and a change of ratios to a colleague who promised that it would be
ready by early December. I then proceeded to build an 1100 formula Junior
engine for the series.

John, Sonny & Lance working on the starter on the McEntee

By the beginning of
December I was becoming alarmed about the progress of the gearbox so asked a
friend to service another close ratio box we had in stock. By December 22 the
engine was complete and fitted to the car but no gear box. In desperation we
fitted the alternative box and on the 26 th December we put the car into 3 rd
gear to time the engine. No 3 rd gear could be found. We had one day left
before the container was to go. In desperation I phoned Anthony Lees (Formula
Vee guru in Perth) to see if there were any formula vee boxes or anything else
we could put in. He had a box in pieces in his shed and worked that night to
put it together. Bob Betts picked it up first thing in the morning and we then
had to modify the bell housing and pick up points to fit it to the car.
Everything was together but we could not start the car. Someone had also
changed the spark plug leads to 1-3-4-2 and with such high compression the
motor backfired and it broke the starter motor mounts.

This was 5.45pm. Lance in
his usual optimistic way merely got on with it and with the help of John the
starter was repaired and the firing order of 1-2-4-3 corrected. At this stage I
was doubting my cam timing and if the motor would start. With the help of some
aero start the motor burst into life for about 10 seconds. We turned it of,
drained the fuel, disconnected the battery and gave it a thorough clean; by
this time we were all stuffed. At 9 pm the McEntee was ready to be bundled into
the container ? there was no turning back ? the journey had begun.

The McEntee enteres the Container in Perth. – John, Bob & Lance

During the next couple of
weeks we were organizing the hire cars and accommodation. One of Lance’s
friends had offered his Ducatti motorcycle and he left a few days before us to
pick it up in Palmerston North. Mandy (my wife), Bob Betts (our team boss), John
Illig (F2 driver and top engineer) as well as myself arrived in Auckland in the
early hours of the morning. We picked up our hire car, a XR6 Falcon (we booked
a Nissan but it was not available ? what a shame) and headed off at 5am to
Auckland and somewhere to have breakfast. A nice cruise around the coast on the
?long drive? seemed pretty good at the time. We had a laptop with a GPS system
and we could always get back to Auckland if we got lost, and we did. We fired
up the laptop and it asked for an address in Auckland. Trouble was we did not
know any streets or locations and in the end asked a passing jogger, much to
his amusement. After spending the morning sightseeing we finally found a motel
and crashed ? we were all stuffed.

The next morning we headed
off to Pukekhoe and arrived there at 12 noon. This was the agreed time with
Lance. There were about a dozen Formula Junior drivers there to check out the
circuit. We were offered the opportunity to drive our street cars around the
circuit and with in a nano second we were thundering around Pukekhoe race
circuit in a hired XR6 Falcon ? lucky they did not know or could hear the other
passengers screaming from the back seat. After a few laps Lance turned up with
his Ducatti and joined in on the fun.

John out the front of the Drury Motor Hotel

That evening we joined the
other drivers and crew at the Horse and Trap at Mt Eden for a get together.
They were such a friendly group and it gave us a chance to meet the other drivers.
I remember Jim Barclay, president of the New Zealand Formula Junior Association
comments that this event was about the cars and not the individuals and at the
end of the series we wanted everyone to have had a good time.

This proved to be the under
lying philosophy driving the event. I appreciated the whole inclusive culture
of the group where not only the drivers and their partners were included but
also their crews as well. It was refreshing to see this in action.

On the way back to Drury
Motor Lodge (the motel was located near the Pukekhoe off ramp and the manager
Calvin Astwood was a keen Holden fan ? pity we had a XR6 Falcon) we called in
at the circuit and our container was sitting proudly on the hardstand.

Mandy, Lance, Bob & John at Pukekohe

On Friday morning we
arrived at the circuit early so we could unload the container and set up the
vehicles in the pits. The major problem with Pukekhoe is that it is also a
horse racing track and little money has been spent on the infrastructure. The
containers were on the outside of the circuit and the pits were on the inside.
A lot of equipment needed to be moved a long way. All of the cars needed their
batteries charged and to make matters worse, there was no power in the pits. We
had to carry the compressor a few hundred metres to fill up the tank and then
cart it back. It was primitive to say the least.

Calvin Bonney, the major
sponsor of the event, had driven all night moving the 8 or so international
containers from his yard to the circuit and he did it for free. This was a
great saving to all the international drivers and we all appreciated his

Calvin Bonney delivering another container to Pukekohe circuit

During Friday I ran the
Lotus at practice and we were concentrating on the carby setups. Glen ran the
Macon and Lance was having trouble with the head gasket on the Jane Brabham.
Lance decided that it would be wise to change the head gasket and as there were
no suitable 86mm gaskets in Australia for the Fiat engine he would try New
Zealand. Lance finally tracked down a gasket at Cambridge so 180 km away from
the track. Off he went on the bike to pick it up, a 360km round trip.

Impessive lineup of Formula Juniors at Pukekohe

We all arrived at the
circuit at 8am on Saturday and met up with Ray and Tinka Mushett friends of Ray
and Carol Robinson (Ray owns an Elfin FF in Perth and is part of the WARM
group). Ray Mushett is a mechanic by trade and has been associated with
motorsport for several years. We were expecting a quiet weekend where
mechanical problems would be minimal ? how wrong could we be.

Neil in the Lotus 20/22 prior to qualifying at Pukekohe -Next to Neil is the
Cooper FJ of Ian Garmey (#52)

I drove the Lotus for
qualifying and the rev limiter was set at 8000 RPM. The motor was built to run
to 9500 RPM but I wanted to concentrate on the handling and tuning for the
first race event. After about 4 laps I was coming up the back of the circuit at
about 7800RPM in 5 th gear when the motor coughed and started to run on 3
cylinders. I coasted back to the pits and rolled into our pit bay. We checked
the plugs and number 4 was missing the electrode. A check of the oil showed it
was full of water and we were able to see significant damage to number 4
piston. It was off with its head. The top of number 4 exhaust valve had come
off and destroyed the engine. The piston was holed and the liner cracked. What
a disappointment given the money we had spent on it.

Bob & John working on the Lotus

Glen Caple who was driving
the Macon immediately offered it back to me. I said I would drive it on Sunday
but I wanted him to at least race in the Tasman Series as well. Glen was pretty
keen not to damage the Macon now that the Lotus had expired and refrained from
pushing it too hard in the Saturday race. Never the less he managed to finish
mid field from a very competitive grid.

Glen Capel returning to the pits at Pukekohe

About lunch time on the
Saturday the New Zealand Scrutineer (Andrew Denton) approached us to see what
we wanted to do. We mentioned that we had a spare motor in the container and we
could swap it over. At this point, he removed his scrutineering credentials
from around his neck and together with Ray got stuck into to the car. Within a
few hours we had removed the engine and gearbox, retrieved the spare engine
from the container and were putting the peripherals back on the spare motor.
This was exceptional given it was Andrew’s wife’s birthday and he promised he
would be home for the occasion.

Meanwhile Lance had fitted
a new head and gasket and was lent a special tool to tighten the head bolts.
The tool was to be given to a guy called Paul Kendrick who would

Neil & Andrew with the engine out of the Lotus

be in the pits at Pukekhoe
and was travelling to Cambridge the next Tuesday. It so happened that Paul and
his wife Cath were Fiat gurus and they too joined into to help Lance and the
rest of us in the pits. We thought what a great bunch of people there are in
New Zealand.

The head was fitted to the
Brabhams, but the drain holes for the oil were absent from the new gasket- a
production flaw. Lance fired up the engine only to find that no oil was
draining back to the sump. Holes were thanpunched into the gasket however the
consequence led to a lack of oil to the bottom end and failure occurred.

Lance now needed to
organize another engine through the week so he could run at Taupo.

Lance & Ray working on the Jane/Brabham

To make things worse, Lance
had taken out the McEntee in the Formula Junior race and the radiator cap became
dislodged and he received severe burns to his shoulders and back. This resulted
in a two hour stay at the Pukekhoe hospital and he was released on the basis
that he would not drive for the rest of the weekend. Within 30 minutes of Lance
returning to the circuit he was driving the McEntee. Glen Caple had found the
cause and had lock wired the cap to stop it coming off. Over the next week Cath
provided a great deal of support to Lance in treating his wounds and ensuring
he received the right medical attention.

We were still working on
the Lotus at 6.15pm when I realized that we had paid $480 for 6 tickets to the
Denny Hulme memorial dinner; we were covered in oil and in no condition to
attend. We were assured by Nigel Russell that the food would not be served
until 7pm. We all piled into the car and made a run for the motel and a 10
second shower, arriving at the Indian Community Centre in Pukekhoe at 7.10pm.
We made it before the food was served. On stage were about 6 characters that
had played a significant part in Denny’s life including his wife. One of these
turned out to have a direct impact on our Tasman Series.

Over the next day we
changed the dry sump from the side of the engine to the front as well as the
sump. The spare engine was set up for the McEntee and not the Lotus so a lot of
components needed to be changed. Apart from Andrew and Ray, John and Bob were
working their hearts out to put it back together before the container left for

Andrew, Bob, John & Neil doing the lifting while Ray is lining things up

During Sunday I drove the
Macon in the scratch race starting from 18 th on the grid. I made a good start
and picked off about 6 cars by the first corner. During the race I moved up the
field to finish 5 th outright. The next race was a handicap so I followed out
the car that beat me in the previous race. I had no idea where I was to start
and if it was from pit lane. When the car I was following got the National
flag, I took off as well, I could see the starter looking in disbelief as I
shot passed him. What the heck, they can black flag me if there was a problem.
I moved up through the field and I think I finished about 10th.

At the end of the day we
had to move all the tools and cars back to the containers and if it wasn’t for
the help of Paul, Cath, Ray and our team we would still be moving it. We loaded
up the container and closed the doors. It had been a disaster of a meeting.
Lance went to Cambridge to find and build a new motor for the Taupo event. He
stayed with Mal Simmonds and Andrea in Cambridge whilst their mechanic Stephen
Martindale built the new engine. Meeting these fantastic people made the trip
one that Lance will never forget.

Bob & Neil at the W.A.R.M. Container

The following Friday
morning the container arrived at the Taupo Gran Prix circuit. This was a new
track with first rate facilities. The Macon was the only car which required no
work. Glen Caple who was in Taupo for the aerobatic display was unable to drive
the car as his CAMS license had expired at the end on January ? bugger. In
appreciation for his efforts in getting the containers to Pukekhoe, I offered
Calvin Bonney a drive in the Macon for Friday’s practice. Calvin was an
experienced driver sharing with the late Denny Hulme and in a Monaro. Little
did I know at the time it had been Calvin Bonney on stage at the Denny Hulme
memorial dinner. Calvin went out with the F5000s and was quickly on the pace.
He was able to pass a few and appeared to be more than capable. I then offered
Calvin the drive of the Macon for the weekend as I wanted to finish off the
Lotus and sort out any issues.

During Friday, Lance and
the mechanic Stephen Martindale from Cambridge built the motor for the Jane
Brabham. We left Lance at about 6pm and headed back to Taupo. Stephen, Paul and
Cath stayed on and Ray and Tinka joined the team about 8 pm They all stayed
until they managed to start the engine at 1.30am at the circuit and then
Stephen had a two hour drive back to Cambridge . Lance was overwhelmed by the
effort to help him back on to the track. Lance was sharing the room next door
with Bob and John who are both as deaf as each other and were well asleep when
Lance turned up at 2am .

Lance in the McEntee

Lance did not have the key
to the motel room and could not get either of them to wake up. Lance ended
going back to Paul and Cathy’s place for the night.

The next night was equally
as bad for Lance. This time he had the key, but John or Bob had put the safety
latch on ? bugger – the things we have to deal with.

On Saturday I took the
Lotus out for qualifying, but noticed as soon as I left the pits that I had no
throttle. The outer cable must have been caught on the linkage and then slipped
in as I drove off. I ended up having to drive it like a hired go-kart using my
toes to stretch the cable. We qualified well down the field, but not at the
back. During Saturday and Sunday I was able to get some good starts and by
Sunday afternoon was able to move the car up to 10 th position.

Lance & Neil about halfway along the grid of Formula Juniors

The cars line up extended back the same distance as can be seen in front of
the boys.

This I thought was quite
reasonable as we were running the replacement engine and by lap 5 we were
running out of engine oil in the left hand turns. This problem should be able
to be solved by changing the breather system and re routing the oil back to the
sump for Calder.

Paul, Bob, Calvin in the Macon, Tinks, Ray, Cath & Lance in the

On Saturday Calvin
qualified second fastest in a huge field of historic cars including, Ralts,
Marches, Chevrons, Brabhams, Formula Holdens as well as V8 powered open
wheelers. The First race saw Calvin off the front row and with a brilliant
start led the field into turn one. The race became a duel between Calvin in the
Macon and Grant Martin in the Ralt. Both cars were able to lap the field and it
was Calvin’s skill in heavy traffic which allowed him to win easily in a less
powerful car. Sunday morning saw Calvin on pole position and he cleared out to
almost a ½ lap in front of the next car and Lance had moved the Jane Brabham up
from the rear of the grid to 4 th position with one lap to go. He was fast
closing on the 2 nd and 3 rd car when a back marker spun and the race was red

Calvin Bonney on pole in the Macon

Calvin returned to the
start line however Lance followed the other cars back to the pits. Unlike
Australia where a race is declared and you return to the pits, New Zealand
regulations require you to stay on the circuit. Cars leaving the circuit are
retired and start from the rear of the grid. This is where Lance started from
for the last lap restart. Calvin shot to the front and won comfortably whilst
Lance was able to finish mid field.

Bob shading Calvin Bonney in the Macon

The last race was a
handicap and Lance was given a severe time penality whilst Calvin was last to
start with about 90 seconds lapse between the front markers. The race was
exciting as Lance and Calvin picked off the other cars. In the end Lance was
just able to hold off Calvin with the 3 rd place car about ½ lap behind. This
was a one, two finish for the West Australian cars and a far better result than
the previous week end.

Lotus Formula Junior’s from around the world

A presentation was held for
the competitors at the end of the formula Junior race and I was presented with
a fantastic trophy for I think doing the most to get there, keeping the cars
running and perhaps for giving the Macon to Calvin to drive. What ever I got it
for, it was appreciated and completely unexpected. Our time in New Zealand was
fantastic; not only for the motor sport but the camaraderie that embraced it.
The Kiwis were keen to help and appreciated our efforts in getting there. They
were inclusive and all of our crew were invited to functions and their
corporate hospitality. The wives and partners of the New Zealand Formula Junior
Association went out of their way to look after us with great lunches and
morning tea. Should there be another event in the next 2 or 3 years we would
certainly do our best to get there.

The cars were then cleaned,
drained of fuel, battery’s disconnected and packed away in the containers. The
New Zealand experience was one not to forget.

Mandy Enjoying A cup of Coffee

Neil with Mandy

Posted in Race Report | Comments Closed 2010 New Zealand Festival of Motorsport
September 16th, 2010 | Author: admin | Edit
Race Report
West Australian Racing Museum visits the 2010 New Zealand Festival of Motorsport celebrating Bruce McLaren, (report is 2mb pdf doc)

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